Chemical Forums
Specialty Chemistry Forums => Chemical Education and Careers => Topic started by: constant thinker on February 19, 2008, 08:35:40 PM

Out of curiosity how important is calculus to chemistry?
Under what circumstances do you use calculus?
I could guess in modeling you'd need calculus and some of the more advanced equations.
The main reason I ask is because I screwed up some of my classes a long time ago and to make it short, I'm only in precalculus now (as a senior in high school), and it's a joke. Thinking about it most of my math classes have been really easy. But I'm thinking of possibly trying to test out of the more general chemistry courses, but if calculus is important in the more advanced chemistry courses then it won't do me any good.
The other reason is that I'm just curious.

You will definitely need calculus (and math beyond calculus up to differential equations, linear algebra) for physical chemistry. In particular, the concepts of differentials is very important in thermodynamics, differential equations and linear algebra are central to quantum (i.e. Schroedinger's equation is a differential equation), and statistical mechanics involves multidimensional calculus.
Even if you plan to do synthesis, you'll likely take a few advanced pchem courses in college, so you'll need to take at least 1.52 years of college math for a chemistry major.

Even if you plan to do synthesis, you'll likely take a few advanced pchem courses in college, so you'll need to take at least 1.52 years of college math for a chemistry major.
Yea and even though you won't need calculus in synthesis you should try to enjoy and understand all of your Physical Chemistry classes by having your ability to manipulate derivatives, integrals and differential equations. Otherwise Physical Chemistry can be hard. Also it is nice to understand certain Calculus based concepts even for Organic chemistry because many equations are the foundation for things that synthetic chemists take for granted like FTNMR, IR, ...

If you don't know calculus you wont have any chance in quantum, thermodynamics, or stat mech. You don't necessarily have to be great at it, but you'll need a strong hold of it. At my school the upper division p chem classes were VERY derivation intensive and a strong hold of calculus is absolutely necessary to do well in them. Also, that calculus will come in huge in your physics classes which are required for the chem degree. E&M and special relativity are impossible without calculus. I think the most important thing is that the more fluent you are with your calculus the more free you are to think about the concepts. The concepts in quantum mechanics and stat mech. are the hardest parts, not the calculus (at least I thought so).

Personally, I agree with you. PreCalculus is a joke. It doesn't really help you for calculus, and it doesn't really bridge from algebra and trigonometry to basic calculus. It might as well be called, "NonDifferential NonIntegral Calculus, with Arithmetic Exercises." If you're truly bored and have the time, by all means get a Calculus study guide or other Calculus I helper text and start practicing.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to dodge calculus, I like math, and I really want to learn about calculus. It's just that I'm not up to where I'd like to be in math, and it annoys me.
Personally, I agree with you. PreCalculus is a joke. It doesn't really help you for calculus, and it doesn't really bridge from algebra and trigonometry to basic calculus. It might as well be called, "NonDifferential NonIntegral Calculus, with Calculation Exercises." If you're truly bored and have the time, by all means get a Calculus study guide or other Calculus I helper text and start practicing.
That's what I'm going to do. I also definitely agree with it not being a bridge because all we've been doing is reviewing Algebra II/Trigonometry which I did well in. I don't think I've learned anything fresh, only seminew applications.
Thanks, though, to everyone that responded.

At my school the upper division p chem classes were VERY derivation intensive and a strong hold of calculus is absolutely necessary to do well in them.
I am not joking when I say I did more derivations in P. Chem then I did in all my many many math classes.
It is not really hard stuff, and there is plenty of help everywhere.
As to CT. I would not worry to much. Usually you have to have Analytical Chemistry before they let you into P. Chem; if they are following the general ACS outline. That is a year (2 full semesters and possibly some summer) to get the calculus you need. When I started my chemistry career I only had algebra. Now I have a math minor.